Game Changers to Make Living in China Easier

Game Changers to Make Living in China Easier
Feb 20, 2018 By Degen Hill ,

There are moments in life where we do something and exclaim, “Why didn’t I do this earlier?” These are called game changers, and there are plenty that make living in China immensely easier. From food delivery services to smiling, here’s a list of things that will positively impact your China life.


Getting Your Own Transportation
Don’t get me wrong, China’s public transportation is good. However, buying your own bike, electric scooter, motorcycle or even segway is indeed a game changer. In busier cities like Shanghai and  Beijing, being able to maneuver in and out of traffic on your own two-wheeled transport is a real sanity-saver. It also encourages you to go out and explore your city, which is never a bad thing.

Signing up for Alipay/WeChat Pay (Bonus: Linking it with Taobao)
If you haven’t signed up for Alipay or WeChat yet, you’re way behind the curve. China’s payments are quickly becoming entirely electronic. When linked to a bank account (usually a Chinese bank account, although WeChat has just started accommodating foreign accounts), these apps allow you to pay your electricity and water bills, buy phone credit, buy goods online and order a taxi, among a wide spectrum of other useful features. And once you link your Alipay/WeChat pay to the online shopping phenomenon that is Taobao, living in China will never be the same.

Joining a Gym
When you first come to China, you’ll be excited about everything. You’ll eat everything you can get your hands on, drink more than you should and, chances are, rarely exercise. Joining a gym is universally good advice, but in China, with generally cheaper prices than gyms abroad, it’s a game changer for foreigners. No-one likes to be stereotyped as the fat foreigner, so don’t give anyone a reason to put you in that increasingly tight box. Exercise also increases endorphins, which make you happy. You’ll have days in China when you’ll need that!

Traveling China
All too often expats get caught up in their lifestyle loop and forget that China is a whole lot bigger than their hood. Traveling around the country is a really eye-opening experience that will introduce you to a multitude of cultures, dialects, cuisines and ways of life. I recommend starting by visiting China’s the bigger cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, but no matter what kind of stimulation you seek, China is the place you’ll find it.

Learning Chinese Characters - (Alternative: Baidu Translate)
For a foreigner living in China medium to long-term, there’s no escaping Chinese characters. If you’re taking Chinese lessons, you’ll eventually get to the point where you can’t really progress without learning some characters. Yes, it’s hard, but not as hard as you think. Once you’ve learned the basics you’ll understand the language so much better and see the country open up to you even more. If you don’t have the patience or drive to learn characters, however, Baidu has your  back with the Baidu Translate app. Take a photo on your phone, highlight the characters (either individually, as a sentence, or an entire paragraph), and the app with automatically translate the text into a variety of different languages. It works much the same as Google Translate but you can use it without a VPN. This little game changer comes in super useful for menus, Taobao descriptions and signs.

Quelling Your Addiction to Cheap Knock Offs
Upon first arriving to China, a friend will usually introduce you to a market filled with amazing looking knock-offs of luxury goods. You’ll think you’ve hit the jackpot; everything is so cheap and haggling over prices is a fun and unique way to practice Chinese. But, be warned, any price the vendor agrees to is still way above what you should be paying, as your spanking new Adidas will fall apart within a month, guaranteed. Knock-off markets are fun to visit and a good place to buy cheap and impressive-looking Christmas presents, but in terms of purchasing stuff to actually clothe your own body, I’d recommend Taobao and legit malls.

Discovering Chinese Food Delivery Apps
Many foreigners in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing enjoy the expat-friendly Sherpa food delivery service. It’s convenient and easy to use, but, let’s face it, pretty expensive with that RMB 15 minimum delivery fee. Once you’ve overcome your fear of using an app all in Chinese, a whole new world of gastronomic adventures await at affordable prices. The major Chinese food delivery apps are Èle me (饿了么), which is blue, Bǎidù wàimài (百度外卖), which is pink, and 美团外卖 (Měi tuán wàimài), which is yellow. All you need to do is download the apps, enter your address, link either WeChat Pay, Alipay and you’re all set. In most cases there are photos of the food, so only the most basic of Chinese language skills are required. If you haven’t taken the advice above and learned some characters, whip out Baidu translate.

Smile More Often / Change Your Perspective
As a foreigner in China, it’s easy to gripe about everything you don't like here and stomp around with a face like thunder when you’re having a “bad China day”. But, believe it or not, people respond to how we present ourselves to the world. If you choose to be positive and reflect that externally, for example by smiling and being polite, Chinese people will be more inclined to help you, talk with you and generally welcome you to their country. Think of it this way, if you were back home, what would you think of a group of people who are unfriendly, rude and generally negative? Remember you’re representing your own country and foreigners as a whole when living in China. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

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Keywords: living in China China life


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Alipay and Wechat pay are the gateway for e payment in China. Be positive and be grateful when you live in China. You will change your perspective as time goes.

Oct 05, 2020 09:36 Report Abuse



Joining a gym and learning some Chinese are good pieces of advice, The rest? Not so much. Other posters have already commented on the I'll leave it at that.

Aug 17, 2018 13:28 Report Abuse



you can setup English language in the screen when ordering at McDonald's.

Mar 04, 2018 19:43 Report Abuse



Good info. actually I have noticed a few of your articles. Some of what you say is clearly based on experience but not the whole 9 yards for newbies which is what it looks like the article is for? Or are you just trying to prove you know a few things? If so lets have a de-bunk. For instance transportation - driving in China and owning a car is very do-able for any serious expat here - even in Shanghai. Scooters and ebikes are okay but lets face it they are old hat now if a person is earning decent cash here. Second, electronic payments are pretty hard to set up. The Wechat version is notoriously hard to do - and that is the most used. Word on travel, you could make it clear that ID is needed for any tickets - bus, train or plane. Reason for saying that is most people in western countries do not like having to travel around with a passport in their pocket for risk of losing it. In China - for the moment at least, until the foreign ID card comes out - passports are required even for inter city bus tickets. The apps info is really good but, there is still a need to understand Chinese and pay using e-method. For example, ordering McDonald's via app is not easy for someone without a Chinese speaking friend to help. Good info but would be better served stating the fact you are clearly experienced here and not a new comer. In other words what you have learnt probably took you some time just like anyone using this for advice would.

Mar 02, 2018 01:52 Report Abuse